Many Americans associate this time of year with pumpkin-spiced drinks and food items, as if cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove only exist in the time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. I myself really love pumpkin spices as long as they’re in a pumpkin pie, which I eat on only one day of the year, because I’m about as clever as everyone else.
Instead, I associate the fall with dead leaves.
Here in New England, we fetishize our dead leaves. People make special “leaf peeping” trips to see the array of colors – yellow, orange, red – as chlorophyll slowly exits the scene. Idyllic locales broadcast their “peak foliage” times, the better to draw the most avid peepers and extract maximum currency from them. It’s dead leaf capitalism, and I love it.
For avid trail riders, the falling of the leaves is something of a mixed blessing. On one hand, the first scattered leaves of the season portend a drop in temperatures and a crisping of the air, which are welcome after the heat and stick of summer. On the other hand, once the trails are inches deep in fallen foliage, traction gets tricky and line reading becomes as reliable as lip reading.
This is when I begin to employ what I call the side wall boogie.
The boogie consists of eyeballing the tops of rocks buried in the leaves, and then charting a course which may include contact with said rocks, but with the hope that your tire’s sidewall will push your wheel onto a passable line. Using this strategy, I shimmy down the trail, my rear wheel skitching left and right to a soundtrack of click-clacking organic detritus.
I try to remember what the marketing copy said about the Kevlar content of my tire’s vulnerable sides, but it’s lost down the same well as my friend’s birthdays, the passwords for websites I desperately need to get into, and what it feels like to do an honest day’s work. I’m left to boogie and hope, which is sorta what life is all about, right?
Like life too, you can only do the sidewall boogie for so long, before you experience a catastrophic failure. If you’re lucky, you can make your way through the deepening leaves to that point in the season where the trail turns to ice, and you slalom around as cautiously as you can until giving up and finally mounting those studded tires you paid too much money for. To every tire, turn, turn. There is a season, turn, turn.
And if things don’t go as you’d hoped, there’s always a pumpkin spice latte somewhere, ready to give you diabetes.
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